Friday, January 24, 2014

Steamboat Natchez chugs and whistles back in time

The New Orleans skyline is bathed in light as Natchez departs the dock.

Lively evening on the Mississippi harkens back to Mark Twain

days and life on the river  

"The Mississippi is well worth reading about. It is not a commonplace river, but on the contrary is in all ways remarkable. Considering the Missouri its main branch, it is the longest river in the world--four thousand three hundred miles."
 From Mark Twain's "Life on the Mississippi"


Natchez is one of only two steam-powered sternwheelers on the Mississippi.
A STEAM engine built in 1925, accompanied by a 32-note calliope and world-class Dixieland band beckon tourists aboard the Natchez in New Orleans for noisy fun.
A true antique and treasure, the Natchez became one of only six true steam-powered sternwheelers playing the Mississippi when she was launched in 1975.  Reviving both the famous name Natchez (she is the ninth steamer to bear the moniker), she is now one of only two steam-powered sternwheelers plying the "Mighty Miss" today.
SHE'S THE real deal -- history and romance and an authentic river experience much like one from a

Dukes of Dixieland heat up the dining and cocktail lounge on Natchez.
century ago.
We loved our evening on her -- for myriad reasons.
Keller, a chief contractor, appreciated the mechanics, watching the engines work and chatting with two engineers, who were in constant communication with the pilot.
Engineers at the controls have been with Natchez for years.
I LOVED the jazz upstairs in the dining room, where the Dukes of Dixieland cut loose with classic N'Awlins jazz tunes, including "St. James Infirmary" and many other classics, including "When the Saints Go Marching In."
The Natchez rides smoothly across the waters and around the city and harbor, with a steering system taken entirely from another boat, the sternwheel Clairton.  Electric signals are transmitted down from the pilothouse to a receiver in the engine room, starting the hydraulic pumps which drive the ram and move the gilded tiller arm.
THE PILOT turns the knob to the position he wants, which turns the corresponding dial in the engine room and sounds a bell.  The engineer moves his knob to the corresponding position.
THIS STOPS the bell and tells the pilot the engineer has received the signal, a kind of "steamboat style telegraph" system, time honored.
The historic Natchez provides a tutorial on how she runs.
Fans of steam power enjoy jazz, too!
While all this is transpiring, guests listen to jazz, sip a cocktail, walk the decks to enjoy the New Orleans skyline, and enjoy a sumptuous Louisiana feast with barbecue, salads, shrimp and luscious desserts.
For an evening, we stepped back in time.
Did I just hear did the raucous just kick in?
Cadiz with its imposing buildings is an ancient port.
Twain called the steamboat ``as beautiful as a wedding cake, but without the complications.`` Decades later, we second the motion, savoring the beauty of the red paddle wheel, the moans of the steam whistle as symbols of a bygone time.

COMING UP: We continue our travels, with a  
 look at lovely Cadiz, one of the oldest continuously used port cities in the world. Then back to the Americas for frolic, a fun look back stage on cruise ship Serenade of the Seas, and tips on renting a car for your next European venture. Check us out Wednesdays and Saturdays at

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